Homeless children in America – this is reality, and reality’s not that far away

This recently aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes; I had a hard time getting through it. There are 16 million children living below the poverty line – in many cases they are homeless – in the United States, and this particular 60 Minutes special focuses on the homeless children who live around Disney World – the Happiest Place on Earth. These kids go to bed hungry, their families have been threatened with being split up by shelters, and many have been abused by local police tasked with evicting families from their homes.

The rich of the Americas would have you believe these children are merely the products of failures, and they are failing as they should, being rubbed out by ‘natural selection’. It is at the very heart of modern Neo-Conservative philosophy, that there are the haves and have-nothings, and that somehow the rich shouldn’t be burdened with higher taxes to protect these people from destruction. The level of stress placed on these families is well beyond the stress levels one would expect to find amongst the middle classes of the the West, and yet these children bear witness to it in their creased, tear-streaked faces – this is the world they have been introduced to, and hopefully they have yet to realize just how ugly, brutish and short their lives may be.

I couldn’t watch it without crying. I wonder what it will take to awake the people of this diseased continent. I can easily imagine the faces of so many elites sneering in derision at the face of such helpless innocence, self-assured in their ways via their misjudged association of their temporal wealth with divine providence.

What’s shocking about this CBS report is that it will only move a very small number of people to act, and their impact may be small and proportional to their means. It won’t move the masses to act and solve and problem with an easy solution, and this makes me wonder whether just how unaware the masses truly are to their own bondage? What would it require to develop rage from so much stagnant lethargy?

Perspective on the City { No.12 } – Phillips Square

The King Edward VII Monument, (built 1914) in Phillips Square - work of the author, Summer 2009

Having a close friend who happens to live right next to Phillips Square has allowed me to experience this space with a fair degree of regularity. It has been a public space since Thomas Phillips granted the land to the city in 1842, though at that time it would have served as a focal point and common green for a residential area developing well to the West of the urban environment. The character of the space began to change in the late 19th century with the construction of Morgan’s department store (currently The Bay’s Montréal flagship store), followed by the construction of the Birks Store, the new Birks building and the Canada Cement Company building, seen in the background of the photo above.

The retail-commercial nature of this space became quite evident in the 1890s, though the Art Association of Montreal occupied a spot towards the Northeast corner of the square from 1877 until it moved to its Sherbrooke Street location and became the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1912.

The monument in the center of the square is dedicated to the “Roi Pacificateur” or the Pacifying King, somewhat ironically in 1914; the monument was unveiled just as the First World War was commencing. As is typical of public monuments of that era, its construction was sponsored by the Birks Family and was designed to impart various ‘kingly’ ideals and a specific vision of the king, the empire and the dominion. The figures at the base of the monument are highly symbolic in nature; among others – at rear a sculpture symbolizing Edward’s first act as king – to officially abolish the tradition of Catholic persecution by the British Royal Family. On the West side, the four majority nations of Canada – English, French, Scottish and Irish – a kind of Edwardian-era vision of multi-culturalism. The East side figures represent bounty and the progress through industry and education; and on the front – a figure representing ‘armed peace’. For more details, check out the City of Montréal’s website detailing public art, here.

I’ve always found the juxtaposition of the values presented in this monument and the reality of the values demonstrated by the services offered in and around this space rather striking. I think I’d prefer various institutions gathered around this space, something more akin to the way it would have been back before the monument was constructed. I suppose the square offers more-or-less direct access to Christ Church Cathedral and St. James Church, which are cultural venues by necessity, but it would be refreshing to see this space used for something aside from mere commerce. As an example – take a walk through this space on a Friday or Saturday night anytime after 9pm and you’ll see how it becomes a kind of gathering point for drunken fools. A real pity too given that it has also made Raoul Wallenberg Square unpleasant at times for similar reasons.

There’s a Canderel proposal for what to do with this space here:

Parking lot area right next to Phillips Square, behind the Hotel - not the work of the author

There proposal is this:

Canderel's proposal for a potential office tower at 1215 Phillips Square - not the work of the author

Not sure how this is going to affect the space in total, but given the trend towards densification of the urban environment, it makes sense that this area would become yet another pole for high-rise commercial office towers; perhaps its the necessary next phase of evolution? I’m not crazy about Canderel since they’re responsible for the Forum fiasco, but I’d be willing to forgive if this particular structure was externally and internally well-designed, environmentally sound, and served as a kind of hub for an expanded Underground City – namely, connecting the Quartier des Spectacles and Paper Hill/Little Dublin area with the retail and entertainment sector concentrated around McGill College. If it breeds better growth in this area, I’m all for it. I just hope it doesn’t end up looking like the Centre du Commerce Electronique!

What interests me is the prospect of linking McGill Métro station to Square-Victoria by means of underground tunnels running from 1080 Beaver Hall Hill to 500 René-Lévesque, then to this new structure and finally hooking up under the Square and further accessing the Bay, providing another North-South axis in the Underground City.

On a final note; consider the pathways you take through the city, and just how often you pass large open tracts of land which serve, either officially or unofficially, as meeting places and focal points. Our city happens to be almost galactic in nature, with multiple poles pulling a wide variety of activities towards them, providing links between a variety of defined-activity quarters.

Now is this good planning, a complete fluke, or the realization a past fluke was fortuitous and thus so happened to be worked into our urban tapestry?

On Goldline (don’t drink the Kool-Aid)…

My vote for world's greatest troll - even if this was my work I wouldn't admit it

A few days back I noticed an advertisement for Goldline on the Montreal Gazette\'s website, and I became infuriated.

Here’s what I fired off to whoever’s in-charge of their web site. As of today, Monday the 7th, there’s still no response (not really expecting one either); judge for yourself:


Hello –

I just noticed Goldline adverts on the Gazette website.

Who thought this was a good idea?

Goldline is a scam currently being investigating for fraudulent practices and misleading investors. Not only is there a US federal investigation, but one in California as well.

The value of an ounce of gold has risen steadily since 2001, but between 1980 and 2000 fell from 2400$/ troy ounce to 400$. Goldline profits by getting people to invest in gold as a kind of safe-bet for a world in crisis. Don’t believe me? – watch Glenn Beck and see how he sells the idea of Goldline, one of his principle backers. He presents gold as the only sound investment in a world on the brink of apocalypse. Its no different than those idiots selling ’emergency seed banks’ (which don’t work either).

The fact is that this is yet another scheme designed to bilk stupid people out of their money. The Gazette should be more sensitive to this.

I’m asking you to please take these advertisements down – the sooner the better. People have the right to invest as they feel, but it is beyond appalling that the Gazette would seek advertising revenue from such an unscrupulous company as this. Moreover, it associates the Gazette with such pillars of journalistic integrity as the aforementioned Mr. Beck.

You can do better.

To profit from a scam like this is inexcusable.


Taylor C. Noakes


There are other issues with Goldline – ie: exactly what is the gold content of these coins? And how inflated is the price of a minted coin as compared to an equal weight of un-minted gold? Moreover, are these coins legal tender? What use are round gold disks if they haven’t been minted by a federal mint and guaranteed by a federal reserve? They have no value, unless you happen to have purchased an excessive amount of coins, have some kind of smelter and can convince people to believe in the same scam you’ve fallen for. It’s a Ponzi scheme and Beck’s a televangelist Maddoff! That this is presented as some kind of wealth-guarantor for a prospective Mad Max type post-Apocalypse scenario ought to be nothing more than absurd, but the fact that people are actually buying into this crap is stupefying, horrifying even. If this was on SNL I’d probably be laughing, but the reality is that a dangerous lunatic not only has excessive political power in the United States, he’s bilking people out of their money too. In other words, how different is a guy like Glenn Beck from a guy like Jim Jones?

And do we as citizens in a free society have an ethical responsibility to stop people who live in a state of bondage, physical or mental, from drinking the Kool-Aid?